Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will be bringing his message to three South Dakota communities on Thursday, making visits to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Rapid City, and Sioux Falls. The Vermont Senator’s campaign platform and background in social justice work has captivated many throughout Indian Country, and consequently, his visit to South Dakota is especially significant to many South Dakota tribal members.
“We are honored that Bernie Sanders is taking the time to come to the Oglala Lakota Nation to hear our issues involving treaties, health care, and housing,” said Tom Poor Bear, Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge. “We have been strong opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and we are hoping that Sanders will take a serious look at all pipelines and how they are contaminating our waters that we are trying to protect for future generations.”
Poor Bear, along with other Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) elected officials, have already met with the Sanders campaign staff in preparation for the event on Thursday, and will have a brief meeting with Sanders following the Pine Ridge rally.
South Dakota Natives for Bernie
The Pine Ridge rally will be the first of th e three events to take place, kicking off at 10:45 a.m. at the Pine Ridge School gymnasium. Doors will open at 8:45 a.m., and the public is encouraged to arrive early. All three rallies are free and open to the public, however, RSVPs are urged, as admission is first come, first served. The Pine Ridge rally will be followed by the Rapid City rally at 2:00 p.m., held at the Rapid City Memorial Park, and the Sioux Falls rally will be held at the Sioux Falls Convention Center, with doors opening at 5:00 p.m.
Ernest Weston, Jr. (Oglala Lakota), of Porcupine, South Dakota, is a political science major at South Dakota State University in Brookings. “I think that Bernie is a great candidate for Indian Country,” said Weston. “As American Indians, we come from communal societies and we embrace the concept of ‘tiospaye.’ If you deconstruct ‘tiospaye,’ it shows that the Lakota are about community and social justice. Bernie is all about Indian Country and social justice.”
Lindsay Ross (Dakota), from Flandreau, South Dakota, will be volunteering and handing out voter registration forms. “I support Bernie for numerous reasons,” said Ross. “Sanders is anti-fracking, he has a consistent voting record, and he isn’t afraid to take on the 1% and all of the corruption that is taking place. It is my belief that he is the only candidate that will stand up for the working poor and do something about wealth inequality.”
Sierra Wolcott (Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota), of Sisseton, South Dakota, is a South Dakota Democratic delegate for Bernie Sanders, and will be attending the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “Bernie Sanders represents humanity, respect for Mother Earth, kindness, and community,” said Walcott. “It's time for our country to come into the 21st century and support progressive candidates, and create a system that empowers our people.”
And while other South Dakota Natives may not necessarily be “feeling the Bern” so fervently, some still believe that Bernie Sanders is the most promising candidate for president.
Richard Meyers (Oglala Lakota), told ICTMN, “I don’t know if I feel it ‘Berning,’ but he surely is the best of the folks running.”
The last day to register to vote in South Dakota is May 23, and the South Dakota primary is on June 7.